Regional Express says it is disappointed with the government’s revival of the enroute subsidy scheme given it offers only a fraction of the assistance available from the previous scheme.
Rex chief operating officer Neville Howell says the $1 million a year for four years to cover air navigation charges from Airservices represented just 15 per cent of the assistance available before the Labor government axed the program. Moreover, most of Australia’s regional routes would not be eligible for the rebate given the low threshold of up to 15,000 passengers per year, Howell said.
“It is disappointing that the government is doing so little to help regional aviation when 16 regional airlines have collapsed in the last 12 years,” Howell said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Given the current aviation crisis in this country, more will collapse, and the token amounts will not stem the permanent loss of regional services to many parts of regional Australia.”
Rex, Australia’s largest independent regional airline group, said it would examine the how many of its routes were eligible for the rebate and “may submit an application for routes that qualify”.
The federal government said on Monday it would spend $1 million a year to bring back the Enroute Charges Payment Scheme, which gave airlines the ability to recoup 60 per cent of air navigation charges levied by Airservices on existing routes and 100 per cent of the charge for new routes for up to three years.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said priority would be given to routes that linked a regional or remote community with a capital city or major regional centre.
The scheme was on top of the $1 million each year allocated to supporting vital aeromedical services such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Truss said.
Regional Aviation Association of Australia chief executive Paul Tyrrell said the revival of the enroute scheme was welcome news.
However, Tyrrell noted the size of the previous scheme was worth up to $5 million a year, or five times the size of the new scheme.
“If it can help some existing routes to stay on their feet and we can help a new route or two to get started then it is not a bad thing,” Tyrrell said on Monday.
“It is absolutely better than nothing and we are grateful for that but it is a very small amount of money across the country.”
A spokesperson for the minister told Fairfax Media on Monday it was not possible to reinstate the full value of the previous scheme due to the state of the budget that the incoming government inherited.